Yesterday as we listened to the Prime Minister talk about moving into Alert Level 2, we were forced to look at the implications of that on our business. Admittedly, we have really enjoyed lock down and having a holiday at our place normally reserved for other people's holiday. We have been walking, biking and playing tennis on our empty car park as well as preparing our place for the inevitable reopening and now that time is nearly here.
On March 25th Les and I prepared to hunker down for four weeks with no whanau, no mokopuna and no guests. We went from a full house where every room in our motel was occupied to a rapid exit and cancellation of bookings. As I moved around locking up rooms and switching power off, I experienced a sense of loss. Already we were witnessing a loss of thousands of lives around the world and now at a local level, we were closing our doors to save lives here in Aotearoa, New Zealand. But on a personal level, we were grieving for our cat Mazda who died a week leading up to lock down. She was the first to greet and meet people, she was great company for lonely travelers and spent a lot of time sunbathing in the gardens. It's a lonely place now as Les and I sit in the sun in an empty car park to compose our list of things to do.
We decided early not open for business preferring to work on a list of repairs and maintenance instead. We turned down calls to house WINZ and the homeless believing the health and safety of our staff and ourselves were more important so with the wages and salary package in place, we settled in to work. It's a wonderful thing when you have all the time in the world with no interruptions and beautiful days. We split our work load between gardens and attacking every room, cupboard and drawer in our house. Knowing where everything is in your home is very satisfying but more than that, there is a sense of triumph when your husband asks, "do you know where the scissors is" YES I DO
In the last week of Alert Level 4 and as moved into 3, we started a deep clean in our units. A deep clean involves wiping walls and ceilings down, cleaning shelves and cupboards and checking all utensils. We cleaned behind fridges and microwaves, washed curtain netting's and bedding and had mattresses and pillows sanitising in the sun. A far cry from a normal clean that is done with speed, we paced ourselves into it spending a couple of hours here and there until the job was done. So yes, we have repaired and painted, sanded and polished, sorted and stacked and now our rooms are looking fantastic and ready for occupation as we ease into Alert Level 2.
Easing back into business will be very strange; how bizarre is a trip to the super market now. At Level 3 we have seen a click and collect framework for business being adopted and although not completely foreign to us, it is not the norm for a face to face business like ours. Because we closed our doors during lock down we decided to email moteliers for advice on reopening. Their responses were varied and helpful but the thing that most concerned us was this hint of a shifting market. I am talking about an exponential growth of WINZ and homeless clients being housed in motels. Although the numbers were there before we went into lock down, it was now exploding under Alert Level 4 . Certainly different from your typical business customer, their needs and expectations have been a challenge for motels housing them. We received several alert emails warning about evictions and antisocial behaviours and police involvement to break up fights. Reputational damage for motels and this region would be disastrous now as we compete with other regions for the domestic tourism dollar. It is unsettling. For the first time in my twenty years of moteling I feel worried and compromised but I think the way forward for us is to stay true to our business sector and to build and protect our reputation.
So, how do we reopen in a safe way to protect our customers and ourselves against Covid 19? First of all we ask that everyone on our property observe physical distancing. That is paramount. We also ask customers to book ahead either through our app, website of by phoning us. Once you have booked, we will email a reservation statement for payment online. After payment, we will send you a receipt and your room number; a milk and key will be left in your room. When you vacant your room, we will leave it empty for 4 days before our cleaning staff come in to clean it for the next guests.
These are extraordinary times so business as usual is not possible. We are asking for your patience and co-operation as we test a different way of working. We also want to let people know about our initiative Double Good which will help the vulnerable in our communities. By booking directly with us rather than an OTA like booking.com, wotif, expedia etc... you will negate their commission which we will use to support a local charity. Let's keep money in our country to prop up our economy. Pleas support local by booking local.